So here we are in April – the time of blossoms and new beginnings. The month of April gets its name from the Latin word aperio, meaning to open or uncover and at this time of the year trees and shrubs and flowers really do begin to reveal their beauty. By April we start to feel that spring is here and, if we are lucky, the weather will reflect that optimistic view. I am, of course, writing this article in March and as I started there was a snow blizzard outside my window, but now the sun is breaking through …
This week also provided us with some much needed rain – that’s the spring for you! But looking out of my windows I am entranced by the pear blossom from my neighbour’s tree and the pink prunus blossoms over my back fence – always good to take advantage of the “borrowed” landscape. In my own garden I am enjoying the brilliant white stars of the magnolia stellata and the vibrant orange of the chaenomeles. Best of all, because it brings back memories of my parents, is the pink camellia in my front garden. My father bought this for me many moons ago, from Woolworths in Bedford, when they were staying with me to look after the children one Easter holiday. The buds on all the blossom trees have survived the frosts – just hope the pigeons will leave them alone for a bit.
I have to say that I have been out into the garden only intermittently – when we have had the warmer spells. My plants in the conservatory give me more that enough to do. I am sharing with you one of the amaryllis that I have managed to bring into bloom from last year and a couple of others are in bud but yet to show their colour. I won’t update you on the other 9 – suffice it to say – not good news on the flower front. Why is that? – they have all had exactly the same treatment.
One of the things that gives me great joy, each time I open the lid, is my compost bin – I know! Poor sad thing that I am. I never cease to marvel at the thousands of brandling worms that are milling around even in the really cold weather. Eisenia fetida – the brandling worm is a species of earthworm adapted to living in decaying organic matter. These worms thrive in rotting vegetation, compost and manure. I did not introduce them into my compost bin, they just came – what a wonderful thing. I top up my compost bin regularly with vegetable peelings and brown paper and card (if there is no glue). Some garden waste goes in but never invasive weeds or grass cuttings. In the next few weeks the wonderful compost will be removed from the bottom of the bin and placed in a pit in the garden in readiness for planting out my sweet peas. I sowed these a few weeks ago in root trainers. They are sitting in the plant house and last week I nipped out their main shoot, the plants will now bush out and then they can be transplanted to the garden at the end of the month. They like to get their roots into a medium which holds moisture and the compost is ideal. A good watering can of water every few days in the dry season gets right down to their roots. Last year I had good success with sweet peas having almost given up hope of ever producing any decent blooms – until, that is, I heard Monty Don on Gardeners’ World say that sweet peas did not do well in full sun and so I had a rethink and moved their position from my south facing patio to the less sunny front garden. Hurrah – I now have a plan going forward.
April is always a major month for sowing seeds or transplanting the seedlings of those seeds sown earlier. I will be planting my Sun Gold tomato seeds this month. I don’t sow them too early, I have better success if planted later as I grow them outside. They do well on my patio in the full sun and last year was my best crop ever. I also plant marigolds as a companion plant to the tomatoes, this helps to prevent white fly especially if you are growing them in a greenhouse. Now is the time to sow quick growing half hardy annuals; pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn, French and runner beans and basil. If the soil has been warmed up with a cloche direct sowing of salad leaves, carrots, beetroot, peas, chard and spinach can begin. Mild sunny weather in April can lead us to believe that summer is here already but, of course, it isn’t and short, sharp frosts can still catch us out. Stay vigilant in protecting plants and don’t be tempted to plant tender bedding and patio plants too soon. Unless you can protect your purchases under glass leave them at the nurseries and garden centres for the time being. Happy Easter and happy gardening.